Sutra 1.33. Methods of chitta stabilization. Part 2. Yogi’s “Virtues” of anahata nature

In his next sutra Patanjali offers a totally different and very original approach to the issue of restoring the integrity of chitta that is grounded upon development of anahata experience:


मैत्रीकरुणामुदितोपेक्षाणां सुखदुःखपुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां 
भावनातश्चित्तप्रसादनम् ॥ ३३॥
1.33. {maitrī-karuṇā-muditā-upekṣāṇāṃ} {sukha-duḥkha-puṇya- apuṇya-viṣayāṇāṃ} bhāvanātaś {citta prasādanam}


In this line the author made use of nominal compound structures called “samasas” that are popular in Sanskrit literature; I shall hereinafter mark them out by curly brackets. The four words contained within the first curly bracket denote the states of anahata nature that the author believes to facilitate stabilization of chitta (chitta prasadanam). But let us not jump the gun yet translate every separate word.
maitrī (f.). The translation of this word is almost undoubtful since it comes as a derivative of another well-known word “mitra” that means “a friend”. And we thus have an abstract noun “friendliness”, or, better say, “amicability”. By the way, the word “mitra” itself has the verbal root “mid” – to be friends, to love.
karuṇā (f.). There are some questions concerning this word’s meaning since traditionally they translate it as “compassion”. Of the other hand the word contains an active root kṛ (to do), while etymology of the word “com-passion” implies some joint experience of sorrow, not an action. That is why one should rather translate the word karuna as “willingness to do something good for another person”. I have so far failed to find one precise word [in Russian language – transl.note] that would mean the same.
muditā (f.). Derives from the root mud (to be happy) and can be translated as “joy” or “cheerfulness” / “joie de vivre”.
upekṣāṇāṃ (f. gen. pl.). In order to get an adequate understanding of what this word means we shall have to found upon its etymology, and it goes as follows: prefix upa (near, to) + word īkṣa that derives from the root īkṣ (to look). And thus it comes that upeksha means “near looking”. And what do we see when we take a close look at things? Usually it is something different from what it looked to us when seen broadly. In order to explain what upeksha is I shall draw my favourite parable about an old man and a horse.
In a village there lived an old man. One fine day (or maybe it was not fine at all) he found a horse. The horse was a great asset, and the neighbors started saying things like “You are into luck to have found this horse!” – “Well, we’ll see…” – the old man shrugged his shoulders. A few days passed. The old man’s son decided to ride a horse and broke his leg. “You are a wise man”, – the neighbors said. – “You understood that the horse was sent to bring you misfortune!”- “We’ll see”, – the old man replied once again. Suddenly war broke out. All young men from the village were called up for military service except for the old man’s son because of the injury he had just sustained. And once again the neighbors said “Still, the horse was sent to bring you luck”, while the old man replied… But you have guessed by now: “We’ll see”… and so on.
This parable – just like life – is endless, and every event upon close look at it (and this is upeksha proper) comes as neither good nor bad. It appears to be at least manifold. That is why a wise man is no longer willing to ascribe extreme values to any events, and what remains is just acceptance from the perspective of anahata of relevance of everything that happens to exist in this Universe. By the way, these are dualities that the next samasa (the second curved bracket) is dedicated to:
sukha (n.). Pleasant.
duḥkha (n.). Unpleasant.
puṇya (n.). Pure, virtuous.
apuṇya (n.). Impure, not virtuous.
viṣayāṇāṃ (m. gen. pl.). Objects.
And the last group of words:
bhāvanātaś (ind.). This word derives from the word bhāvanā by means of adding a particle –tas that generates the meaning of “from…”. That is, bhāvanātaś should be translated as ”from bhavana” or “due to bhavana”. Now let me explain what bhāvanā actually is. The word obviously comes from the verbal root bhū (to be). But just like most of the uncountable set of this word’ derivatives, it has “accumulated” different shades of meanings. In yoga literature this word is often used to denote the states induced by means of peculiar practices, or the practices themselves. For instance the 112 techniques and states described in Vijnana Bhairava Tantra are referred to as bhavanas. Probably, the most relevant equivalent of this word shall be “emotional experience”.
citta (n.). This is chitta.
prasādanam (n. nom. sg.). Running back over my recent article about wholeness as an archetype, a reader might catch the subtlety of Patanjali’s wording since prasādanam means both the state of happiness and satisfaction and at the same time proper arrangement of one’s emotional sphere, wholeness.
First of all let us try to define each of the states and understand its fundamental nature.
Maitri (Amicability) is one’s willingness to open towards something new. An amiable person initially “builds bridges, not walls”. Because in every person (or even in nation) they are not potential enemies but people that he sees first. A state that is contrary to amicability is not just hostility, which is obvious, but also demonization, or forehanded attribution of negative features to people around, their perception through the prism of “dehumanizing” stereotype. Speaking about social demonization we can draw an example of military propaganda. Or even propaganda in general that acts by attributing to an opponent (neighbor) of all negative features, acting for the purpose of ultimate negation of the human image he has. As a result the Universe of an inimical person drastically reduces to the size of his state, or even yard, room and his own self. A person who is missing amicability is deprived of possibility to learn from those he has demonized. On the other hand, he has to be constantly beware of them, keeping a part of his mind (chitta) fixed on the repressed object in the way it entails scattering of his mind. And upon understanding this criterion one starts to look askance at “yogi” forums that are overwhelmed with aggression, criticism, offences and so on.
Karuna or the “willingness to do something good for another person” is also associated with sensitivity to feelings and emotions of others to the extent one can feel them as those of his own; moreover, not only negative (this is what the word “compassion” is restrained by), but positive as well.
Mudita (cheerfulness, joie de vivre). The ability to remain in the state of joy is subjected to one’s having the sense of belonging to the Universe, feeling of one’s place in this world. Sullenness, depression, the experience of loneliness – these are indicators of a fact that a person has been keeping too much aloof from others being too much focused on his self. This criterion also casts doubt on spiritual nature of the practices that speak about “endless solitude of a Walking man” and the rest of beautifully dramatized neurotic nonsense. Solitude arises because of undeveloped Anahata and/or arrogance.
The essence of upeksha has been explained by the parable.
What is it that these 4 states have in common? Of course a person familiar with Buddhism, even if just a little, shall immediately recognize them to be the so-called brahmaviharas. And right he shall be. And might probably think about the order of borrowings. But what we believe to be most important here is the fact that all described feelings are of Anahata nature and in fact this is the first time that Yoga Sutras tells about the need to develop Anahata.
Why does the maturity of Anahata stabilize chitta? The matter is that all Anahata experiences are associated with removal of the wall between a person and his surrounding Universe, other people and so on. For instance, we open ourselves towards the world of a person we love or admire. Such openness releases contradictions and resistance, and on the other hand it makes our own world bigger. If to speak metaphorically, instead of gathering chitta from different places we expand our own and “absorb” these places within.